The 59th Bear

The 59th Bear

"He went to Alaska to get away.
Nicky was always a lone wolf."
—Ted Hughes

My brother Gerald—and I went hunting
And fishing—in the Mytholmroyd moors
The Pennine Hills—full of game and trout

The Prehistoric megaliths—so ancient
Stonehenge—and the stone towers
Leaning down—out of the scudding fog

None of that—frightened me
I felt safe fishing and hunting—there
I suppose—I was naïve and innocent

But the sullen moors—of rainy England
Are different than—the wilds of Alaska
And horrible archaic—Yellowstone Park

Maybe it’s the earth—Sylvia said
The vast American—Evil Whatever
This is real evil—she said.

What is it—I kept saying
Something was—sucking us dry
In the indigo night—The Evil Night

It came out—in the darkness
In the canyons—and dark forests
The whole landscape—wore its mask

An ancient evil landscape—terrifying
Not like England—its centuries human
America was Badlands—everywhere

It crawled—into every camp we stayed
Lone trees—near our campsites never
Gave us comfort—everything watched us

A landscape with one idea—Death
It got into the radiator—into the radio
It was a maze—of electrical snakes

Wherever we went—it was the same
Lunar, iron-hearth—ashen landscapes
A secret hidden—in the oxides & firedust

Some solar furnace—ancient explosion?
Something overwhelming—uneasy
Each night—a sea of engulfing nausea

Sylvia and I—we were tired
Vulnerable to the terror—we felt inside
Nervous tension—something was wrong

It was more interested—in her than me
Overloading her—with emergency angst
She was more used to it—death in disguise

It peered down at us—from the sky
When we reached Yellowstone—it was ready
What is it—I kept saying—what is it?

American Indians—would probably know
It’s not just the Earth—it’s really us inside
What’s worse—than doppelganger emptiness?

At this point—Sylvia stopped writing poetry
Because everything—she wrote convinced her
She was prophesying—what would happen

Never marry a psychic poetess—they say
Whatever they may write—over the years
The writing of it—makes it happen

It was the same with Ouija—and Tarot
There was no magic—in the Planchette
Or the Gypsy cards—it was Sylvia’s mind

We got deeper—into the Landscape
Naïve pioneers—had no idea what they
Were getting into—no finesse

Once by a lake—in her bikini
Sylvia delighting—in brilliant sunshine
Only to recoil in horror—an evil threshold

Realizing then—poetry wrote the future
We both lost any interest—in reaching
The core of any—American labyrinth

There was nothing there—except death
I saw her dead face—unmoving & still
I didn’t write it down—but I told her

She said—she had the same feeling
Disembodied—from me now & forever
The name of the beast—was Ariel

The next night—at another campground
Crummy Red Indian—Micky Mouse America
Uncle Bruins—in Disneyland overalls drag

As if campers—were invulnerable
Grizzley Détente and Perestroika—ruled
A total illusion—until it was too late

The 59th bear—killing a man that night
In the nearby Yellowstone camp—gruesomely
Then our car—wrecking it completely

After that—no more bristling Americana
We were both jumpy—brute ruthless force
Mixed with nightmare loons—midnight lakes

We left the ghoul—of North America behind
In the rearview mirro—it writhed and made
Faces at us—Monsters of the Id with claws

We heard the story—about an Alaska couple
The husband leaving—to find a doctor for his
Pregnant wife—who’d climbed on the roof

The grizzlies were after her—they climbed up
The ladder and then—pulled her down where
Her skull was found—gnawed on & eyeless

Not very Shakespearian—deadly scenarios
Into pulp fiction—bloody and horrible like
Sylvia’s typewriter ribbon—inky black blood

So that years later—on a fishing trip
Visiting Nicky in Alaska—parking our canoe
In a remote beach—by the sea

The Yellowstone Yetti—came back to me
It devoured my brother—it got Sylvia too
I’m supersitious—when it comes to déjà vu

Usually I write poetry—wherever I go
But when precognition—tells me not to

The last thing I want—is for it to come true

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